Young Hearts Run Free

The fall unit in my Grade 6 gym class was cross-country running. I still remember huffing and puffing my way through the course, sweat beads dripping down my face, struggling to keep pace with my classmates. It was only afterwards, as I stood nursing a cramp in the searing September heat, that I noticed him. He was tall, with blond hair, crisp blue eyes and an upturned nose. Upon further investigation I learned he was on the cross-country running team, which was still accepting new members. I glanced in the mirror, drinking in my horribly underdeveloped body, frizzy hair and unplucked eyebrows. It was clear I would never win him over with my looks, so I did the only thing I could think of. The next morning I found myself participating in a sport I abhorred in a bid to pique the attention of my first crush.

Whoever said love hurts wasn’t kidding. I’d rise with the sun and log countless miles before sitting down for a full day of school. ‘The course of true love never did run smooth,’ I’d read during English class, prompting me to speculate that Shakespeare himself had fallen for a long distance runner in years gone by. Though I lacked talent, I more than made up for it with my determination. I reasoned that so long as I kept putting one foot in front of the other, I’d eventually catch up to my crush. Sure enough, my times began to improve. Two years after I had ceremoniously keeled over in pain attempting to complete one lap of our football field, I was named the fastest female runner in my grade.

While my love for the boy eventually waned, my passion for running did not. I raced for my high school track and cross-country teams, relishing the discipline and confidence that it instilled in me. I remember letting out a squeal of delight upon learning I had qualified for the provincial high school championships, a feat my eleven year-old self would have deemed impossible.

As with all relationships, we have had our battles. There are times when I hate running. Like when I’m repeatedly sprinting up a 60′ incline during hill training. As one of my friends sardonically observed “That’s not a sport, that’s torture.” On numerous occasions I have started a race thinking it will be my last. “I am never coming back to you running. We’re through.” But somehow, I always do.

I have suffered through many a broken heart since that fateful day in grade school. But no matter how many failed relationships I experience, it is a comfort to know that I can take solace in pounding the pavement – a mixture of frustration and heartache pulsing through my veins.

I’ve also learned that relationships are very much like long distance races. You will no doubt stumble as you try to navigate your way through the peaks and valleys. But here’s the secret: if you keep putting one foot in the front of the other, you’ll get where you need to be. Eventually.

You can read more from Amita Parikh on her blog.

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